Artisan Wednesday | Q+A with Andi Kovel from Esque Studio

Without giving away your location, describe where you are right now. What are the things you see, smell, or hear around you? 

The landscape here reminds me of Panama.  I am surrounded by old growth forest, industrial shipping and manufacturing lots, and the confluence of two rivers. I hear birds chirping, containers being craned into stacks, the hum of electrical equipment and the sound of rain drops on a corrugated steel ceiling.


Taste, touch, smell, sound, sight — which of the five senses do you rely on the most? Why? 

Sight and touch.  Working with hot glass, my eyes are attuned to the subtle nuances of outline and dimension, my hands to curves, elasticity and heat.  My favorite sensory game is to identify objects that I cannot see through exploring with my fingers… guessing what items are in my backpack or car’s armrest before peeking. I find intimacy to objects through smell and smell everything I touch be it rocks or flowers.  I think it’s a reminder to literally stop and smell the roses. 


Tell us about your relationship to Studio Zung. To begin, when and where did your relationship with Tommy start? What drew you to working with us?

Tommy and I studied together in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Both artists and designers by nature, he has always inspired me to explore and express my personal style with conviction. Tommy and I are lifelong friends and champions, encouraging each other’s interests over the past 30 plus years.  We’ve been dreaming up opportunities to work together for years, and Studio Zung is the ultimate perfect venue.


How has this relationship evolved over time? Could you describe one of your favorite moments or projects working with Tommy and our shop?

I started out with a focus on installation art and sculpture, and fell into glass making quiet unintentionally.  As my skill grew, so did the opportunities offered in the field.  I have always aimed my attention towards the design industry and functional art, away from the pedestal and craft world.  Tommy has excelled in various design focuses as well including landscape, architecture, fashion, product design, etc.  Tommy and I share a passion for adventure and an aspiration to create meaningful design with respect to our natural environment.  


I always look forward to time together visiting art galleries, jumping out of helicopters, and working back and forth on concept sketches. I have notebooks filled with collaborative ideas we’ve yet to materialize!


We want to know more about your creative process, walk us through it. How do you begin your projects? Do you anchor it with an image, a material, color, feeling? How do you come to a stopping point and know your work is complete, if you ever think so?

I’m inspired by small details like outline, color and context. I connect to vintage period style references and geographical heritage. I always start an idea on paper.  Drawing frees me from material constraints. I don’t think about how to make the idea at all as I explore a hundred variations in scale and proportions.  My favorite part of my work is designing and rendering, it’s all possibility, fantasy and totally removed from logistics. If you change a line to angle inwards and then outwards, the interpretation and references change entirely. Color can be the seed that starts the idea, but usually is considered after form, used to compliment and anchor an influence. I think the attribute that connects my designs and defines my style is isolated exploration. I like to experiment with a singular material attribute or a singular concept and capture the object when it most amplifies my focus.


For example, the Kishu Karafe and Kup set was designed to highlight and compliment the charcoal filtration stick’s texture and form, to add the optical effect of enlarging the stick, and to break tradition of what a pitcher normally looks like.

To me the best design is unexpected while at the same time seeming inevitable.  Beauty is to do away with everything superfluous.


How would you describe your work? How do other people describe your work?

Curious, unusual, sublime, magical, deviant, fashion, forward, fearless, gorgeous. I believe I have always been the author of my script and how my work is interpreted.

What is your favorite object or piece of glassware you designed? What about one from a different designer?  

My response would likely be different each time I was asked. I get absorbed in an idea and it’s variations, then move to the next fascination with the same obsession. I’m always in love with my most current creation. I’m working on a sculptural series where the forms are made by attaching multiple glass elements to project from the vessel in high relief. The process is based on cane or murrini roll-ups but switches the axis so the cane stands on end rather than laid parallel.  Traditional technique is re-interpreted to create organic surface texture rather than geometric surface pattern.


Think of an object in your home that has the most significance to you. Could you share with us what it is and the memory behind it?

I cherish my collection of design objects, furniture and artworks. Most are original editions or gifts from accomplished friends. My most significant of all are my grandmother’s paintings.  She was a prolific painter with a love of the expression, medium and application. My home is filled with her canvases and I continuously study them and imagine her hand making the brushstrokes. When I was young she had set up an easel in her studio for my brother and sister and I to paint besides her.  She was fearless and original and amazing.


We live in a society where so much of our identity is surrounded by the things we consume whether that be the things we buy, the food we eat, or the content we see, along with the fast paced nature of it. How do you approach mindful living and sustainability in the context of your work and in your everyday life?

I want to offer an alternative to single use throw-away products. We thoughtfully hand craft useful objects with reverence, beauty and soul. All our studio’s decisions are based on creating  the smallest carbon footprint possible, with the awareness that we are consuming valuable natural resources. The hope is to present a business model that is aligned with our convictions. Glass as a material is ultimately inert, organic and infinitely reusable!  We create all our products to order with awareness and responsibility.   


 

What do you envision for your brand in five years? 

Esque has equally been focused on offering our collection of products, custom glass design, collaborations and site specific installations. Recently we’ve been developing individual art editions, sculptural lighting concepts, and signature collectables all which magnify our signature style. We’re allowing for more time to experiment and express concepts without connecting production time to retail value. The design industry is so oversaturated with functional glass ranging from mass produced to knock-offs. We want to embrace our unique vision and trademark methods by exaggerating and celebrating our approach.  We’re driven to be provocative and expolrative by amplifying our brand. In 5 years we’ll be exhibiting at Art Basel, designing for Roche Bobois and Balenciaga, and styling entire spaces from furniture to barware. May as well dream up the grandest dream!


What do you want people to take away from your brand? How do you want to be remembered? What is the legacy you imagine for your brand? 

I want to make design joyous and fun and gorgeous. I aspire to contribute to the advancement of art and design in a significant way. To me true art is personal, authentic, explorative, it holds a mirror to our current reality. It should expand ideas, taboos, boundaries, ask new questions and offer new solutions.  

 

Are you looking forward to anything in the next few months? Any new exciting projects or plans?

Summer slows down at the shop because first of all it’s way too hot to work engulfed in flames, second it’s way too beautiful and action-packed in Oregon to stay indoors. We’re planning on clearing space, purging, upgrading and finishing all the spring cleaning projects we’re normally too busy to get to. It’s a creative period for us as well and I’m planning on focusing on a few unfinished collaborations.

We’re designing an installation with Emily Katz (macrame goddess), singular objects with Jessica Jackson Hutchins (acclaimed amazing sculptor) and an edition concept with artist Andishi Avini.

I’m launching an exquisite corpse style collection with fellow artists from the glass reality series Blown Away as collaborators instead of competitors very soon! We’re also busy filming and interviewing as featured artists with Interior Design Magazine’s Cindy Allen, and with OPB for their acclaimed Art Beat series. AND we’re newly represented by Vetri Gallery and Shop Zung!!